5 ok maybe 6 Bad Scuba Habits

bad scuba habit

That long awaited dive vacation is finally happening as we are now sitting on the boat ready for our first dive of the week and we start off with a bad scuba habit.  What!?! Sitting on the boat is a bad scuba habit?  No, that isn’t one but skipping your Buddy Check is definitely bad scuba habit number 1.  As I have written here and many other times.


Shooting fish butts- how many times have you tried to get that awesome once in a life time photo of that amazing little fish and you got its butt. Bad scuba habit number 2.  If you struggle with this habit, you might consider taking the PADI underwater digital juv drumsphoto class, but in all honesty a lot of people struggle with this one.  Underwater photography is a challenge as your subjects like to move and hide and oh show you their butt.

Showing up to dive on say Catalina Island just off of Southern California this time of year with only a dive skin or shorty, would be bad scuba habit #3.  Be prepared for the environment that you are going to be diving in and part of that is by making sure you have the proper exposure suit.  Being cold or getting over heated is a great way to ruin your dive vacation.

Having the proper exposure suit brings us to bad scuba habit #4.  Too much led leads to poor buoyancy control, using your air supply to fast and it makes you more tired from lugging it around with you.  To break this habit, you might consider taking the Peak Performance Buoyancy class or our Advanced Open water program.

And on our long awaited dive vacation we will be diving with our 20 year old regulator that we haven’t had serviced in 3 or 4 years, but it was working well the last time we went diving. Bad scuba habit #5 and 6, no annual gear service or at least every other year and not keeping our scuba skills up to date. I don’t think these bad habits need to much explaining.


My Scuba Journey by John Burkey

Spring 2006, somewhere off the coast of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.  The strong smell of diesel fumes mixed with sea water was surprising. The boat rocking over the waves was too.  The pounding in my chest with anxiety and trepidation was both startling and totally unanticipated.  This was my first certified dive.  Mr. Confidence scared of the water?go pro

The water has always been one of my dearest friends.  I do not have a memory of when I was taught to swim, but the old joke goes that my brother and I had just learned to walk the week before. My memories of my entire life were surrounded by my profound love for water.  Whether it was getting up before dawn for swim practice, jumping off cliffs and riding waves in the large irrigation canals that wove their way through the valley I grew up in, or swimming in various lakes and oceans throughout my life, the water has always been home. (Well there may have been a slight set back when my dad took us to the movie Jaws).  I always knew I would eventually become certified as a Scuba diver.  Heck my parents were certified in the early 1970’s and did their open water check out in the Rifle gap in Western Colorado.  The timing just never seemed right; life just kept getting in the way.  It was not until a cousin of mine was getting married in Mexico that we seized upon the opportunity. So my brother and I, accompanied by our significant others, took the plunge and became certified divers.  That very first moment in the pool I knew I had found my passion.

On the flight back from Mexico from our first diving trip I began to try to figure out how I could get back into the ocean.  My only tropicaldeep and lasting regret was that I waited so long to become certified.  My fear that I had experienced that first day on that diesel smoke-filled boat had evaporated instantaneously the moment I was greeted by the ocean floor.  This was nature at her very finest; an environment of constant change and incredibly varied beauty.  My moment of fear was forever replaced.

It seems now as I look back that it was almost the very next day that we were at the local scuba shop looking at new gear and trying to figure out how we could expand our knowledge.  Our evenings were spent discussing our next trips, our next training, and our next adventure.    I looked at the world with a new found wonder and joy that I thought not possible.

My wife Jessica and I wanted to be the best divers we could.  Becoming Master divers was the next logical step in our development.  I was happy and content knowing that my skills had grown and my comfort levels were improved.  I thought I had reached my goal of what I wanted to do, I thought I had reached the apex of what I wanted to accomplish.  Boy, I could not have been more wrong.

Frankly, when we were asked to come to the PADI Go Pro night, I was not even sure what it was.  By that time we were spending a significant amount of time at Joe’s Scuba Shack anyway and rarely missed an announced get-together. I knew I wanted to see our friends, share some stories, and just be around people who shared our passion.  But within seconds of hearing the presentation I knew.  I knew that my life would again be changed in the most unexpected way possible.  Be altered in a way that surprised me to my very core.  I would become an Open Water Scuba Instructor.

Since that night at the Scuba Shack, our lives have been transformed so unexpectedly.  Our immersion into the PADI system has been fantastic.  The training, knowledge-gathering, and fulfillment of the requirements to reach the stage we are now in has been an absolute blast.  It is now with nervous anticipation that we prepare for the Instructors Examination.

These simple yet profound decisions have given us opportunities and possibilities I never thought probable or possible.  Soon we scuba johnwill have the ability to open hearts and minds to the great hidden wonders of the water. To be able to change others as we were changed making our lives so much more rewarding.


All about Drift Diving

Ah, drift diving in Cozumel.  In just a few short months we will make that little back roll and drop down and just let the current push us along, so lazy and easy.  Well, that is generally how we describe drift diving, but there is so much more to it than what we make it out to be.  While it is also, basically true that there is little if any need to kick, just adjust your buoyancy and soar along.Turtle

So, let us look at some of the challenges in drift diving.

First and possibly the most important thing in drift diving is to have awesome buoyancy control and to be streamlined in our gear set up.  By being streamlined and being able to control our buoyancy with just our lung power we can maintain a good position over the reef.

In drift diving our ascents and descents are different as the current is pushing us along.  On our descent we want to all enter the water together or as close to it as possible to help keep our group together. On our ascent again we want to try and keep the group as close together as possible as the boat has been tracking our bubbles and should hopefully be there to pick us up.

In some locations where the current is extra strong we may need a reef hook, so we can safely slow down and watch the show as the current sweeps by us.

What if we get separated from the group on our drift dive? All drift divers should carry a “safety sausage” and a whistle at the least.  I like to carry a finger spool reel with 100 feet of line just in case I get separated from the group so II can send up my marker while I am on my safety stop and the boats in the area know that there is a diver below.


Fun facts about NEMO, the clown fish

I am sure by now everyone knows the story of Nemo, the clown fish and his pals. I can’t tell you how many times kids come in with their parents and see the salt water tank and they delight in Nemo and Dori.

We know that clown fish or anemonefish, live in harmony with the anemone. But, how does the anemone know not to eat their guest? They perform a long and well patterned dance with the anemone before actually moving in with their host. They clown fish gently touches the anemone with its body developing a layer of protective mucus until the clown fish is immune to the sting of the anemone. Since the clown fish is actually a poor swimmer the anemone protects the clown fish and the clown fish drives away creatures that are looking to make a snack of the anemone.

clown fish

Did you know that all clown fish are born males and they live in small family groups.  The largest of the clown fish will undergo a transformation to female and the second largest will become her mate or the breeding male. The remaining smaller members of the family will stay and be workers and protectors.

Another fun fact is that there are over 1,000 species of anemones, but only 10 will host the anomonefish. Or how about that there are 29 known species of anomonefish and all are found in the Indo-Pacific and they are actually part of the damselfish family.

You can find more fun facts about anomonefish in the current issue of Sport Diver or at www.marinelifeblog.com


Ever have an Insta Dive Buddy?

Have you ever been on a dive trip and thought no buddy no worries, I will get an insta dive buddy

Gilligans IslandWell sit back by friends and let me tell you a tale of insta dive buddy.  Our brave hero Gilligan and his buddy the Skipper are taking out a couple of divers for a nice morning dive or two.  The brave crew decides that Skipper will dive with one of the passengers that had the least experience and Gilligan will dive with the older more experienced diver.

So Gilligan visits with his insta dive buddy about the weather and the experience of insta dive buddy.  When they get to the dive site, Skipper gives them a little briefing as they gear up.  They giant stride into the water and start the dive, Gilligan has a little trouble but catches up with his insta dive buddy quickly. About this time Gilligan notices that he has 1800 psi left and signals that it is time to turn around and head back to the boat. Insta dive buddy signals ok and they start heading back, shortly after that Gilligan notices he is down to 700 psi and signals that it is time to go up. They are at 80 feet and as they ascend to 35 feet Gilligan is out of air, he drops back down to insta dive buddy and gives the out of air signal and insta dive buddy just stares at Gilligan.  Again, Gilligan gives the out of air signal and again just a stare in return. So Gilligan just reaches out and grabs the regulator out of the insta dive buddy’s mouth and gets maybe one breathe before it is yanked back.  Now Gilligan is out of air and starts to do his emergency swimming ascent. As he is going up his fins come off and his weight belt has slipped down around his knees, but he can’t undo the buckle as it is stuck.

Gilligan makes it to the surface and with no fins, finally gets the weight belt to drop off so he is buoyant. After gasping to fill his lungs he finally manages to inflate his BCD so he can float.  Skipper throws the life ring, but it only has a 20 foot rope and Gilligan is 30 feet from it, as he tries to swim to the ring and is only a few feet from it insta dive buddy finally arrives to help.

What went so wrong and so fast?  First, Gilligan didn’t talk to his insta dive buddy about emergences.  They didn’t to a pre dive buddy check.  Also, Gilligan hadn’t checked his own gear.  If he had he might have noticed that he had a hose that was loose and leaking air from his first stage regulator.


When Gilligan finally got home to MaryAnn and after she stopping laughing at him, Mary Ann suggested that Gilligan go see the Professor and take his Scuba Tune Up class.

The Skipper’s tale is just as bad, but that is for another blog

Translating water temp

PADI LogoStudent: If the water temp of the pool is 81 degrees why do I need a wetsuit?

Instructor: Well, if you remember from your reading and class that water takes heat from the body 20 to 25 times faster than air.

Student: Do I need to use the wetsuit?

Instructor: It is your choice, everyone is different; but why don’t I bring it to the pool just in case.

As instructors and dive shop people, we get asked all the time about what type of wetsuit for different wonderful islands that people are traveling to and fortunately we have been in a lot of different water temp and can usually help out in trying to get a suit that will work for most people. Everyone is different, on one trip to Hawaii I was diving in my 3 mil with a hooded vest and still felt a little chill. Some friends where in their 7 mil suits with hood and vest and Donna was in her 5 mil and hood and vest, then there were the young guys from San Diego that were diving in skins or just their board shorts.

Let’s take a look at water temp as it relates to air temp. As we know water will take the heat from your body 20 to 25 times faster than air.

80 degree water = 68 degree air

75 degree water = 50 degree air

70 degree water = 32 degree air

On a nice late spring day with the air temp at 80 degrees we are all probably running around in shorts and light shirts and enjoying the sun. 80 degrees is a nice day to hang out at the pool or beach.  But 68? I might be playing golf in shorts, but I will have a light weight pullover to keep me warm. 75 degree days? No worry, it is nice and beautiful, but 50 degrees is chilly and I am wearing a coat.

Instructor to Student: You cold?

Student: (shivering) not to bad

Instructor:  You are turning blue, please go put the wetsuit on

Student: Ok, I am a little cold

Instructor: (smiling)ok


      As always happy bubbles and feel free to leave a comment

Are you up for PADI Rescue Diver class?

PADI Rescue DiverThe PADI Rescue Diver class is one of the most fun and challenging class you will take as a recreational scuba diver. And I dare say that the PADI Rescue divers are among the best divers to have as a dive buddy.  In fact all of my dive buddies are rescue divers.  Why? I enjoy the confidence and peace of mind in knowing that if something goes wrong, they have the training and skills to help me.

Let’s look at what you learn in the PADI Rescue Diver class. First, we review all of our self aid skills; you know these from your open water class. Tired diver tows and cramp removal and basic skills that we all know along with air sharing.

We work on recognizing and assisting a diver in panic, both under the water and on the surface.  From on a boat or the shore or in the water.  How do we approach? Do we even have to get in the water to help? What do we do if our dive buddy is found unresponsive? How do we bring them back to shore or the boat?

The PADI Rescue Diver is trained in all of these scenarios and more.  One of the biggest differences in the PADI Rescue Diver class and other first aid or CPR classes is in the rescue breathing. In most CPR classes only chest compressions are taught, but a study that was published in Undersea and Hyperbaric Medicine examined the value of rescue breathes taught in the PADI Rescue Diver class and determine that effective rescue breaths can be provided and that the benefits of these breaths far outweigh the negatives of any breaths.

Are you ready for the challenge? Sign up today for your PADI Rescue Diver class.

Resscue Breath

How Much Lead?, Buoyancy for Beginners

okMany new divers ask this question just before they pack their bags for that tropical vacation, how much lead will I need for buoyancy? There are many ways to answer that basic question, but if you have taken your PADI advanced open water class with us, then you already know that there is a basic weighting chart in your adventures in diving manual and you also know that there is a small little typo in that same chart.

Let’s take a look at the normal diver and how I might weight you for your tropical island dives.  First, what type of wetsuit are you using?  A dive skin or a 2 mil shorty or maybe a full 3 mil.  Maybe you run cold and are using a 5 mil full suit.  They all add buoyancy to us and they all have very different buoyancy issues to overcome.  For an average person in salt water let’s start with

  • Dive skin or swim suit, since neither of these have any buoyancy start with 4 to 6 pounds
  • 2 or 3 mil Shorty or full suit – 5% of your body weight plus approximately 4 pounds for the added buoyancy of the tank as it empties
  • 5 mil full suit – 10% of your body weight plus the extra for the tank

These are not hard and fast rules, but a basic starting point.  A person that carries a lower percentage of body fat, such as a weight lifter might use less weight that a person that is carrying a few extra pounds around their middle.  I have seen very thin and in shape divers that needed extra weight and very large people who needed all most no lead.  Every diver is different and every diver has different gear.  If you have been diving with a heavy jacket style BCD and you then start diving with the Zuma travel BCD you will need to adjust your weight up to counter the lighter weight of the travel BCD.  The same goes for a new wetsuit, add a few extra pounds of lead to counter the added buoyancy of the wetsuit as they are more buoyant when they are new.scuba joe

Is DAN in your dive bag?

DANIn every basic open water class we talk about DAN, Divers Alert Network.  We tell our students that DAN membership and insurance is so affordable and that they should consider joining. I think we should take it one step farther and you should have DAN, just like you have a save a dive kit.

Most of you have heard the story of the young man who worked in the shop that somehow separated his shoulder at the crater and how DAN paid his medical bills.  But, I was told a story this week that really brings home how important it is to have DAN with you on any trip.

A diver, not newly certified, but not very experienced was diving in Cozumel.  Now, we consider Cozumel easy diving and a great place to go for the newly certified or low-level of experience; but there are some more highly advanced dives on the south of the island and the currents can become very wicked and there is even the potential of down currents.  This diver was with a small group of divers and definitely the least experienced of the group.  During the briefing the dive master stated that the currents were very strong on this site, but this diver didn’t think or realize just how strong the current was.  The plan was to drop down to the sandy bottom at 30 feet and then slip over the wall and drift along.  The problem was that the current was so strong that as soon as they hit the water they were no longer over the sandy bottom. As they started their descent this diver got caught in a strong down current and was pushed down fast.

By the time the dive master realized what was happening and caught the diver they were at 200 feet.  The dive master was able to bring the diver slowly back to the surface where they immediately called for help and then called DAN.  DAN advised the diver to get to the hospital and even told the diver that if they were not there in 10 minutes they would send someone to pick them up.  Dan then called the hospital and arranged for treatment of this diver.  The story does have a happy ending as the diver made a full recovery from the pulmonary embolism that was developing.

And this diver never saw a bill as DAN paid the entire cost.

So, is DAN in your dive bag?